It’s been a busy few weeks for 50 Cent. The rapper/mogul can barely keep track of the corporate ventures, philanthropic causes, book deals and product drops he’s involved in—not to mention a new album in the works, and the signing of Jersey Shore lightning rod-turned-mixmaster DJ Pauly D to his G-Note imprint. Last night, 50 held a lavish launch party at New York’s James Hotel for his new line of hi-fidelity headphones, SYNC by 50. He also announced his partnership with Feeding America, a non-profit that aims to feed families in need throughout the country. 50 spoke to Rolling Stone about his latest signee, his legacy as an artist, and why hip-hop’s self-professed bad guy is determined to do so much good.
You recently signed DJ Pauly D to your pop imprint, G-Note Records. Can you talk about how that deal came together?
When Pauly came by to see me, they had options. They had several places that they were going, and people that were interested in doing a deal with him. Obviously, the momentum from Jersey Shore was spun off into him being the first one to have his own independent series. They’re moving places and DJing in front of bigger audiences, and getting ready to make moves internationally, where the DJ is the star, overseas. When I sat with him, I saw the opportunities we could have moving forward, with brand extension and packaging the music.
What can we expect musically from Pauly D? How do you think he’ll be received?
I look forward to it. I call him "the bridge." He’s going to be something between what you would get from a DJ Khaled or a DJ Drama and what you would get from David Guetta.
We’re inching toward the 10-year mark of your recording career. When you first arrived you were a poster child for the new model of the record industry – how free mixtapes and underground buzz could catapult an artist to mainstream success. That’s still very much the model for hip-hop artists today. How do you think the industry has changed since you first arrived?
You’ve got people watching their computer more than they watch television now. The new artist is meeting the general public before they meet the record company. They’re able to put the material on YouTube and have a million views before they even meet an executive at a record company, and get the deal based on that.
A lot of people are saying that because of that dynamic, the major label system is becoming obsolete.
I don’t think they’re taking into account the marketing dollars it takes to be a superstar. To be a recognizable talent as an artist, within a community of a whole lot of artists, sure, you can do that on your own. But when you move into different tiers, there’s still a benefit to majors. But this is from someone who’s already established themselves – the new guy might want to take a shot on his own and see what happens.
Isn’t that, in a way, what you did?
When I put out my first mixtape, 50 Cent is the Future, it was the first tape where an artist did the entire tape in song format. It’s been 10 years since this happened for the first time. Before, a mixtape was performing with guys like Ron G, DJ Clue, Kid Capri, these different guys that you would have to go see and put 16 bars or 32 bars on an intro maybe, but not in song format.
You’d say that 50 Cent is the Future was the introduction of the album-format mixtape?
Right, exactly. It’s the standard now. I’ve had people come to me and hand me a CD, and not know that they’re handing it to me because of me. Puffy’s contribution to hip-hop culture was the remix. He offered us the music that his mom played in front of him, with newer drums and younger artists. That worked, and will consistently be there. The remix comes right after the original record, that’s something Puffy did to influence the culture. When they see a mixtape, it’s 50 Cent every time.
So the SYNC by 50 headphone series has a philanthropic component, similar to your recent Street Kings initiative. How’d you decide to add these charitable elements to these two projects?
I’m trying to create a template that’ll become a standard. A lot of the problems that Americans have, there’s no money for to solve them. If we’re having stimulus package for them, [points to New York skyline], who’s there to help families? According to World Bank numbers, 1 percent of revenue from big business would solve all extreme poverty. Imagine if every bottle of Ciroc provided meals? If I’m able to influence my peers – because we have a lot of influence, we’re out in the public eye – if you start seeing myself, and the Jay-Z’s and the Diddy’s doing these kinds of things with the big companies that they’re associated with, it would make a dent in the actual problems. So for every pair of headphones sold, 250 meals are being provided, for all domestic sales in-store and at smsaudio.com.